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The capital city of Devon, close to the coast with good shopping and beautiful historic architecture

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Exeter is the capital city of Devon, and one of South-West England's main urban centres. In the past, it was one of the top-five settlements in the country, but in the modern age it is a relatively quiet, medium-sized city. Its history though, is a lot less relaxed - over the years, Exeter has been the scene of much conflict. It has been conquered and taken over by many different groups, including the Romans, the Vikings, and the Normans. More recently, parts of it were badly damaged by bombing in World War II. Since then, though, it has developed into a pleasant and relaxing place, which just under 120,000 people call home.
The city is centred around its main High Street, which features most of the familiar big stores. The rest of Exeter's shopping streets are within a short walk, including the Princesshay quarter, a contemporary shopping and leisure development in the heart of the city. Also in the city centre is Parliament Street - often described as the narrowest street in Britain. Despite being 50 metres long, in parts its width is only two-thirds of a metre!
Just a minute from the High Street is Exeter's biggest landmark - the Cathedral. This 600-year-old building has many interesting details, including its centuries-old astronomical clock, and its detailed ceiling decorations. The attractive vaulted ceiling is also worth noting for its length - because Exeter Cathedral does not have a central tower, it is actually the longest in England.
Just outside the Cathedral is a large expanse of grass, which is popular amongst the locals. On sunny days, many people come here to read books, have picnics, or just to take a break from their shopping. At these times, the area really feels like the centre of the city, and the focus of its community.
Another popular spot during good weather is the historic quayside, situated next to the curving River Exe. The favoured activity for most people is to buy a cold drink from one of many pubs and cafes, before settling down to enjoy the view - but there are also restaurants here, as well as several shops. Several of these stores are based inside old cellars or warehouses, giving them a very attractive appearance. Most of the goods for sale are antiques, or local crafts, making exploring the area a real pleasure - especially since some of the stores perform free demonstrations of their handiwork, including glassblowing. More energetic folk, meanwhile, can take part in several different pursuits in and around the river, including cycling, and kayaking.
That very same river flows directly into the English Channel, just a few kilometres south. This means that, although Exeter itself isn't a coastal city, it is within touching distance of several popular seaside towns, including Dawlish, and Exmouth. The city is also surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside.
It's unusual to find a city so close to the coast, surrounded by countryside, with good shopping and beautiful architecture, but Exeter manages it without ever getting overcrowded. It's no wonder that the place was recently voted as one of the top 3 cities in the UK for quality of life.
Visitor Information
Exeter Tourist Information Centre, Dix's Field, Exeter, EX1 1GF. Tel: 01392 665700

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